OBX Erosion: Nourishment needed before it’s too late

OUTER BANKS, N.C. (WNCT) – As we quickly approach warmer temperatures, the attention shifts to the coast.

Communities in North Carolina along the Atlantic attract people from around the world and make millions for the Tar Heel state every year.

9 On Your Side spent some time in the Outer Banks last year, as severe weather threatened the coastal community.

Residents there talked about how issues like erosion are always a huge problem. So, we decided to check it out before the next storm hit, and it was too late.

The last time 9 On Your Side was in Kitty Hawk, a portion of Highway 12 was not, and although they’re attempting to rebuild the dunes, there’s not much standing between the community and the ocean.

Kill Devil Hills, Duck and Kitty Hawk are just three communities in the Outer Banks working on nourishing their diminishing beaches.

Spencer Rogers, erosion specialist with the North Carolina Sea Grant explained, “Beach erosion varies tremendously not just from community to community but it also varies within a community. The best solution is to stay out of the way and map the erosion and realize how much it’s going to change over the future. But if that doesn’t work, we’ve got a lot of existing buildings.”

Rogers works with coastal communities in North Carolina. He said there is only one real viable solution, beach nourishment.

“It’s not a cure for beach erosion, it’s merely a treatment. It’s not expected to be a one-time event and then you live happily ever after. We know that if you can use beach nourishment there’s existing erosion problems that are already there. You’re going to have to add sand periodically,” said Rogers.

Business owners in the Outer Banks are willing to pay to keep up their main money-maker.

The approved nourishment project will cost the three towns more than $38 million. A portion of the cost will be covered by the Dare County Beach Nourishment Fund. The rest will be paid by area taxpayers to keep the coastline where it is.

“Everyone comes here for this, the beach. We have to have it. Now granted, if we didn’t do anything, we’d still have a beach, but it would be where someone’s living room used to be. But, we need the beach here, we need these homes that people can stay in and enjoy their time here,” said Doug Brindley of Brindley Beach Vacations and Rental.

Nearby Nags Head is another Outer Banks community with an ever-changing coastline. It has to make adjustments to keep its main source of income intact. The town paid for millions of dollars in 2011 to rebuild its beach.

“We were losing infrastructure. We were losing streets. We were losing power lines, and we were losing water lines. We were losing homes,” said Cliff Ogburn, Nags Head Town manager.

The project was a huge success, but they will likely have to pay millions more in the coming years to re-nourish.

“Being that our main and well, really our thriving economic engine is tourism, people come here because of the beach and just like any maintenance, we needed to maintain our beach so we could keep our tourism viable and thriving,” said Ogburn.

Outer Banks residents are patiently waiting for their projects to become a reality to ensure more successful summers on the North Carolina coast.

“The beach nourishment is very much-needed not so much to protect these homes, but to protect our business of bringing tourism here, which is a gigantic tax generator for not just Dare and Currituck County, but for the state,” said Brindley.

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